To our generation fell the good fortune of re-discovering the Levellers. To the classical liberal historian they meant rather less than nothing, this neglect is puzzling. At the crisis of the English Revolution it was from the Levellers and not from its commanders that the victorious New Model Army derived its political ideas and its democratic drive. Even on a superficial glance the Levellers leaders are as personalities unusual and, indeed, unique. King Charles had Lilburne flogged as a youngster from Ludgate Hill to Palace Yard; Cromwell banished him in middle age to a dungeon in Jersey.
But what we have rediscovered is not merely the fact that the Levellers anticipated our fathers in most of the social and political reforms of the next 300 years; the theme of this book is rather that they were, until Cromwell crushed them, the dynamic pioneers, who had the initiative during the most formative years of the Inter-regnum. They would have won for our peasants in the mid-17th century what the Great Revolution gained for those of France at the close of the 18th.